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IP Street Blog

How Patent Intelligence Can Help You Identify Competitors Before It's Too Late

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 16, 2016 8:13:49 AM / by Tyler Hakes

Tyler Hakes

Too often, firms are are caught off guard when an existing company or a new one enters their market. In the era of social media and billion-dollar deals, being reactionary to new competition can be devastating to even giant firms. Many markets are ripe for external disruption.

But these kinds of entrants rarely happen without a trace. In most cases, we can see them coming if we know where to look.

Patent filings are a leading indicator of the direction a firm is looking to take. We can analyze emerging patent data in real time to see both when existing firms are moving to compete directly or when new firms are patenting technology related to a specific business or industry. These trends sometimes develop years in advance of changes in the competitive landscape.

Nest vs Honeywell

Case in point: Nest Labs launched their Nest Learning Thermostat in the year 2011. But a look at their patent portfolio makes it clear that the product was in development for at least a year prior.


Honeywell is a huge incumbent in the home thermostat and electronics space. In 2014 they released their Lyric Round WiFi Thermostat -- about three years after Nest hit the market.

Even though some reviews have found that the Lyric offers some superior functionality to the Nest, it may be too late. Nest has become nearly interchangeable with the smart thermostat market. Honeywell may well find themselves as simply a “ran-too” in an industry that they ruled for decades.

It’s clear that Honeywell, despite having an established brand and a considerable head start, is now playing catch up. And with Nest Labs being acquired by Alphabet (Google), it seems unlikely that they’ll ever be able to muscle Nest out of their market entirely.

Nest's Patent on the Smart Home

You can see clearly from just a subset of patents filed by Nest Labs between 2010 and 2012 that they were working on something that was both a thermostat and had a lot of bells and whistles not usually found on home thermostats. Worse yet, the patents were being filed by Tony Fadell, a former Apple engineer credited as the inventor of the iPod.

Nest's Patent on the Smart Home

This seems like a pretty credible threat--an emerging competitor run by a pedigreed titan of product design.  And they were moving quickly. Yet no one seemed to notice until it was too late.

Given this information about a competitor, not only could Honeywell (and other companies) have predicted the emergence of the Nest thermostat, but they probably could have pieced together much of the functionality that would ultimately make it so successful.

Most of the patents filed prior to the launch of the device point to the fact that the thermostat was both meant to be WiFi enabled and also detect occupancy. It seems clear that they were building a smart thermostat that would use real-time data inputs to manage temperature within a space.

Patent Analytics Made Simple

With IP Street’s patent data, firms like Honeywell can create active, real-time monitoring of emerging patents based on specific technologies or industries. This is a strong form of protection against impending products or companies, allowing existing companies to react quickly to changes in the market.

Not only does this provide a clear advantage to companies with access to real-time monitoring, but it also enables firms to innovate faster, leveraging industry data to point toward emerging technology within their space.

For companies looking to gain a strategic technology advantage, this information can be priceless.

Our team can build custom patent analytics systems to keep your firm ahead of competitors and ahead of the market. Schedule a demo to learn more about how we can provide you with the data you need to innovate and protect your brand.


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Topics: Case Studies

Tyler Hakes

Written by Tyler Hakes

Tyler Hakes is a researcher and writer using IP Street to tell interesting stories through patent data.